“We cannot absolutely know all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill … all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places … in such a case, we find it impossible to not believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.” Lincoln, House Divided Speech, 1858
It’s a peculiar thing, the way numerous governments have behaved about Julian Assange.
First, there was the still-unexplained Swedish decision to reinstate the case against him after it was dropped by the chief prosecutor. Then the rejection of repeated offers from Assange to be interviewed for a second time by Swedish authorities in the UK, an innocuous procedure Swedish authorities have been happy to undertake previously, such as earlier this year when a prosecutor travelled to Serbia to interview an alleged murderer.
There’s the US Vice-President declaring Assange to be a terrorist — bearing in mind the US quite readily kills even Americans identified on White House lists as terrorists, let alone foreign nationals.
There’s the Australian Prime Minister, with no legal basis, claiming WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”, and Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s Rain Man act on the whole issue, parroting the same stale lines about how nothing is happening regarding Assange regardless of the publicly available evidence.
Then there’s the peculiar and still-unexplained moment when Jen Robinson was stopped at Heathrow before boarding a flight and told she was on an “inhibited” list, similar to the way other people with WikiLeaks links have been stopped.
Now the UK government has joined in, issuing a remarkable warning to Ecuador about marching into its embassy in a way seemingly calculated to goad not merely Ecuador but most of South America into fury. When your own former senior ambassadors have to explain that establishing a precedent for barging into embassies is going to make life difficult for diplomats, you’ve blundered.
On their own, each of these moments in the Assange saga can be explained away. A Foreign and Commonwealth Office functionary might have blundered in her phraseology. Joe Biden might have misspoken for the umpteenth time in his political career. Julia Gillard might have been badly briefed. The Swedes might be standing on pride and resent the way Assange has focused attention on their criminal justice system. Western governments may not have taken s-xual assault seriously ever before but it’s commendable they’re doing so now.
And all of them deny acting as part of an international effort to get Assange into the hands of the Americans; even the Americans have denied they’re pursuing Assange, although sometimes they scramble their messages — like overnight when a State Department spokeswoman admitted there was a US legal case against Assange but then backtracked when she was picked up on it. Doubtless she misspoke as well.
But as Lincoln suggested about efforts to extend slavery before the Civil War, even if we cannot know that separate parties are acting in “preconcert”, it is becoming impossible to not believe that the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia have “all understood one another from the beginning” and are working from the same plan. The coincidences, the peculiarities, the occasional, hastily explained-away admissions, have all piled so high that you have to be a conspiracy theorist not to believe he’s the target of a concerted campaign, to see only a desperate hacker trying to evade “charges” (as so many in the media insist on claiming) on the flimsiest of pretexts.
In granting Assange asylum, the Ecuadorian government has called the “understanding” out into the open. And, almost in passing, it has damned the Australian government. In the very week when it has moved to imprison people with legitimate claims to asylum, it has confirmed Assange’s argument that he’s been abandoned by his government, which even yesterday was maintaining the “nothing to see here, consular assistance, etc” act, demonstrating that being at war with the facts is not a condition confined to Tony Abbott.
Quite apart from events in London, the Australian government’s position on Assange just became even less tenable.